I’m not even going to bother with a Sulk, Dance, Walk Off this week. The Panthers lost again, to drop to 1-5 on the season and pretty much killing any hope of the playoffs. A year after losing one game all season and going to the Super Bowl, the Panthers are looking like a team that will draft in the Top 5, where they’ll no doubt take another defensive tackle.
And that’s what I want to talk about this week. Panthers General Manager David Gettleman.
Last year, Gettleman looked like a genius. The players were playing above expectations, and it looked like he fielded the most talented team in the league. During the offseason, when the Panthers let Josh Norman walk and then proceeded to draft a defensive tackle followed by three cornerbacks, everyone blindly believed that Gettleman knew what he was doing.
Maybe, just maybe, Gettleman is an idiot.
We all knew the problems that the Panthers had last year. A 15-1 season made it seem like everything was fine, but anyone who watched every game saw the problems. There was no pass rush from the edge, the run game stagnated when Jonathan Stewart was injured, and the offensive line couldn’t hold up on long protection plays. These problems were overlooked because of the middle and blitz pressure that the defense was creating, not to mention Josh Norman taking away half the field and Kurt Coleman playing center field. And the offense was getting big play after big play that a sack here and there was fine.
Now, because other NFL teams watch game film and see that the Panthers didn’t address any need during the offseason and because the coaching staff is making bad decisions, those problems are rearing their ugly head.
Instead of drafting an offensive lineman or a defensive end, Gettleman drafted a defensive tackle, an area where the Panthers were already strong and had youth, and three cornerbacks. Of course, had Gettleman just signed Norman, he wouldn’t have needed to draft three cornerbacks.
I get why Gettleman didn’t sign Norman. At the time, the decision looked bad, but I understood the logic and tried my best to defend it. I still think you can defend it if you really sit down and think about it. Gettleman put his faith in the scheme. He figured that strong pressure up front would mask any hole in the secondary. It’s logical thinking. However, it also requires you to correctly assess your talent. Charles Johnson hasn’t been productive in a couple of years now, and banking on Kony Ealy certainly hasn’t paid off. The Panthers needed a defensive end. Instead, they drafted three corners to try and replace Norman. The fact that he drafted three corners pretty much showed that he knew releasing Norman was a mistake. James Bradberry was a good pick, and I think he’ll be a good corner in the league. Unfortunately, he’s hurt, and the Panthers have had to turn to Zach Sanchez and Darryl Worley. Sanchez didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster and Worley has not looked good thus far. Instead of just drafting one guy to replace Norman and then filling other needs, Gettleman drafted three guys and failed to fill the other needs.
Besides defensive end and offensive linemen, Gettleman ignored the strong safety position. He felt that Kurt Coleman could slide over to strong safety and Tre Boston would fill in at free safety. In theory, this would work. Except for the fact that Tre Boston sucks. It’s taken Coleman out of his free safety position, where he was so good last year, and forced him to play at a position where he’s not as good.
I’m not sure what Gettleman was thinking during the offseason. Maybe he had a Super Bowl hangover and forgot that, even when you win a lot of football games, you should always look to improve your roster and you definitely shouldn’t release your second best defensive player and then try to overcompensate at the draft.
It’s too late to fix things now. This is a lost season for the Carolina Panthers. As a fan, I can only hope that he corrects his mistakes in the offseason. But, knowing Gettleman, he’ll draft another defensive tackle.